Ballmer: Make cloud easy to access

Cloud services need to be simple enough to deploy so "change resistant" small and midsize businesses in Malaysia will more likely embrace such services, says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Written by Edwin Yapp, Contributor

PUTRAJAYA--Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in Malaysia will likely only embrace cloud computing services if technology providers make them easy to implement, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Speaking to the media Tuesday during the launch of its cloud computing services here in the country's administrative capital, Ballmer noted that SMBs are "change resistant" and this is true not only in emerging countries such as Malaysia but also in other developed nations.

"SMBs typically have nobody responsible for IT and even midsize businesses have few resources to handle IT," he said. "Malaysia has over 600,000 SMBs that have yet to automate or are currently under automated. For many, it's a first step for them, if we can make it simple enough."

Ballmer noted that SMBs want to be in control of their business, including their IT infrastructure and data. "But being in control does not necessarily mean their IT infrastructure is well managed. So the top issue [in my mind] is to get people over the notion of [needing to have] control," said Ballmer.

In this aspect, he said Microsoft will have to work to ensure it does not feed the natural concerns and trepidations that these businesses have over cloud computing.

He noted that if SMBs in Malaysia can overcome their natural fear of not having control of their IT infrastructure and embrace what cloud computing has to offer, they would stand to benefit greatly.

Microsoft cloud in Malaysia

Malaysian businesses can now access Microsoft's full range of cloud computing capabilities, delivered over the vendor's Windows Azure platform.
Microsoft also launched here today its cloud computing suite called Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which encompasses SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office Life Meeting and Office Communications Online.

Ballmer added that for cloud computing to be deployed successfully, a country must have a strong broadband infrastructure.

"Malaysia has a decent broadband infrastructure and given the government's commitment to make it a national priority, we're betting that the broadband infrastructure will [eventually] get there," he said.

Step approach needed for cloud
According to Steve Hodgkinson, Ovum's director of government practice, organizations in Malaysia including SMBs must be confident a particular cloud service can meet their needs in terms of access and reliability in all geographic regions relevant to their business.

"Cloud computing is not hype but it is sometimes overhyped," Hodgkinson told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

While he acknowledged that adoption among enterprises will be dependent on the continuous provision of a reliable Internet connection with reasonable bandwidth, he noted that there is a very diverse range of services available in the cloud and not all are mission-critical.

"Not all cloud computing services require high bandwidth and not all would be used for mission-critical applications," he said. "So it is just a matter of cloud computing becoming more useful and relevant as the quality and reach of a country's broadband infrastructure improves over time."

Hodgkinson advised local businesses looking to adopt cloud to first assess services that are available from global, regional and local cloud providers and evaluate how these services can enable faster and cheaper deployments.

"The other consideration is to identify gaps in the market and how Malaysian companies can develop solutions to [address] these gaps, for either the local, regional or global markets."

"It is important that Malaysia develops on-shore cloud computing providers to service both the local and export markets," he added.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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